OTHER THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED – AUGUST 13

After the Decree was signed providing for a 30% reduction in the price of 170 medicines, the National Union of Pharmacy Owners (Unprofa) has threatened that 450 small and medium size pharmacies might close their doors in response, from 15 August. A spokesman said that at no time were they consulted about the action taken by the Government regarding the price of medicines and said that, if the discount is maintained, it will be the end of many small and medium-sized pharmacies.

Meanwhile, the health ministry has confirmed the third case of monkeypox. The patient is reported to have been in contact with a foreigner.

13 August 2022

DRAFT CONVENTION ON THE EFFECT OF JUDICIAL SALES OF VESSELS

On 21 July, the UK P+I Club reported that the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) approved on 30 June a draft convention on the effect of judicial sales.  The Draft Convention will now be put to the UN General Assembly to consider signature.  The object of the draft Convention is to achieve international recognition by one country of orders by the courts of another country for the judicial sale of a vessel.  It is said that problems often arise in the deleting and re-registration of vessels, and in other situations where judicial sale orders made in one country were not recognised in other countries. 

https://www.ukpandi.com/news-and-resources/legal-content/legal-articles/draft-convention-on-the-effect-of-judicial-sales-of-vessels-approved-by-uncitral/

RUSSIA IS SCOURING THE GLOBE FOR WEAPONS TO USE AGAINST UKRAINE

On 9 August, Bloomberg reported that that a merchant ship under US sanctions travelled from Syria to Russia late in July, said to be carrying military vehicles to bolster the war in Ukraine.  This is said to underline Russian efforts to tap resources for the invasion that’s now in its sixth month, as supply lines strain under the pressure of Europe’s largest military campaign since World War 2. 

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-08-09/russia-is-shopping-around-the-world-for-military-weapons-for-its-war-in-ukraine#xj4y7vzkg

THE AFRICAN CONTINENTAL FREE TRADE AREA (AFCFTA) BUSINESS INDEX

On 11 August, a post from the Brookings Institution said that to better understand how African businesses are approaching the landmark agreement that is the AfCFTA and, more importantly, how the AfCFTA can best support those businesses through trade, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) created the AfCFTA Country Business Index (ACBI).  This enables relevant policymakers to identify bottlenecks in intra-African trade at a country level, which informs the barriers impeding effective AfCFTA implementation from the perspective of the private sector.  It aims to inform African policymakers on the trade barriers and guide AfCFTA national strategies.  The ACBI aims to ensure that the African Continental Free Trade Area delivers on its projected sustainable development promises, especially for women-owned and small- and medium-sized businesses (SME).  The post goes on to discuss the ACBI methodology. 

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2022/08/11/the-afcfta-country-business-index-understanding-private-sector-involvement-in-the-afcfta

The ACBI, published in February, contains summary results for Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, and South Africa. 

https://repository.uneca.org/bitstream/handle/10855/47540/b12000322.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

BANGLADESH; $8 BILLION BEING LAUNDERED USING GOLD EACH YEAR

On 13 August, United News of Bangladesh reported claims by the Bangladesh Jewellers Association that this sum is being laundered each year using gold smuggling, and is calling for tough action to address the problem.  It claims that Bangladesh is used as a transit country to neighbouring ones.

https://unb.com.bd/category/bangladesh/tk-73000-cr-being-laundered-through-gold-smuggling-annually-bajus/98753

LEBANESE ART DEALER WHO EXPOSED SMUGGLING ACCUSED OF ARTEFACT THEFT

On 13 August, The Times reported that George Lofti, 81, a Lebanese antiques collector who helped to expose the theft of a golden Egyptian coffin has been accused of smuggling millions of dollars of looted artefacts into the US.  An arrest warrant has been issued after he allegedly tried to use his connections to give his stolen goods a sheen of legitimacy, according to law enforcement agents.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/art-dealer-who-exposed-smuggling-accused-of-artefact-theft-29zvk8xrk

CANADA: HONORARY CONSUL FOR UKRAINE ACCUSED OF PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT OVER LAND DEALS LINKED TO DRUG TRAFFICKER

On 12 August, Tri-City News reported that a Vancouver lawyer who serves as honorary consul for Ukraine in British Columbia committed professional misconduct related to 15 real estate deals referred to him by a convicted drug trafficker.  It is said that Lubomir (Mir) Ihor Huculak failed to make reasonable inquiries about the legitimacy of the deals.

https://www.tricitynews.com/bc-news/ukraine-honourary-consul-should-have-seen-money-laundering-red-flags-5692625

SHAREHOLDERS ASKING FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IMPACT ASSESSMENT REPORTS MAY OFFER WAYS TO PREVENT WEAPONS HEADING TO CONFLICTS

On 10 August, a Commentary on the Inkstick website suggested that recently 2 large US armaments suppliers were pressed to adopt shareholder proposals highlighting a need for due diligence and human rights impact assessment procedures to better address the damage their weapons cause.  Though the moves failed they attracted considerable support, signalling that the approach offers promise to prevent — or at least make more difficult — the funnelling of weapons to irresponsible actors or those that harm civilians.

https://inkstickmedia.com/when-shareholders-ask-weapons-manufacturers-questions

OPERATION STARTS TO RELOAD CONFISCATED OIL ONTO IRANIAN TANKER IN GREECE

On 12 August, Lloyds List reported that the oil was seized by the US from the Lana (ex-Pegas) in April, but was ordered by Greek authorities to be returned after Iran hijacked 2 Greek tankers in retaliation.  The vessel was sanctioned by the US in February for ties to a state-owned Russian bank, not for carrying Iranian crude.  The tanker was initially Russian-flagged and had 19 Russian crew members on board at the time it was seized, and was among 5 vessels designated by the US on 22 February under sanctions against Promsvyazbank.  The tanker, which was reportedly carrying 115,000 tonnes of Iranian oil when it was seized, has been flying the Iranian flag since 1 May.

https://lloydslist.maritimeintelligence.informa.com/LL1141923/Operation-starts-to-reload-confiscated-oil-onto-Iranian-tanker-in-Greece

URUGUAY BECOMING ARMS TRAFFICKING HUB BETWEEN ARGENTINA AND BRAZIL

On 12 August, Insight Crime reported that Uruguay has been making regular seizures of weapons smuggled in from Argentina, indicating that the country is becoming a preferred transit hub for arms traffickers.  While a link to Brazil was not mentioned in the most recent case, that country is a frequent destination for arms trafficked through Uruguay.  It says that Argentine gun runners have long supplied Brazilian gangs, primarily via Paraguay.

https://insightcrime.org/news/uruguay-arms-trafficking-destination/

UK: PUBLIC SECTOR FRAUD AUTHORITY LAUNCHED WITH £180 MILLION TARGET FOR FIRST YEAR

On 8 August, Local Government Lawyer reported that the UK Government has launched the Public Sector Fraud Authority and set it a target of £180 million of identified fraud benefits in its first year.  It is said that the authority will be made up of counter-fraud and data experts, “using best-in-class tools and advanced analytics to help departments and public bodies protect public money”.  The Cabinet Office said the authority, backed by £25 million of new funding, would modernise the Government’s counter fraud response.

https://www.localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/litigation-and-enforcement/400-litigation-news/51302-public-sector-fraud-authority-launched-with-180m-target-for-first-year

UNCTAD SPELLS OUT ACTIONS TO CURB CRYPTOCURRENCIES IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

On 10 August, the UN Committee on Trade and Development published an article saying that it had released 3 policy briefs that delve into these risks and costs, including the threats cryptocurrencies bring to financial stability, domestic resource mobilisation and the security of monetary systems.  One examines the reasons for the rapid uptake of cryptocurrencies in developing countries, including facilitation of remittances and as a hedge against currency and inflation risks.  Another one focuses on the implications of cryptocurrencies for the stability and security of monetary systems, and to financial stability.  The third discusses how cryptocurrencies have become a new channel undermining domestic resource mobilisation in developing countries.  UNCTAD urges authorities to take a number of actions to curb the expansion of cryptocurrencies in developing countries.

https://unctad.org/news/unctad-spells-out-actions-curb-cryptocurrencies-developing-countries

CEO OF SECURITY COMPANY PLEADS GUILTY TO INTERNATIONAL BOILER ROOM FRAUD SCHEME

A news release from US DoJ on 10 August advised that ROGER RALSTON, the CEO of DirectView Holdings Inc, a Florida-based video surveillance and security company, had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for defrauding elderly victims in connection with the fraudulent sale of stock and fake carbon credits as part of an international telemarketing scheme that caused nearly $16 millionin losses, 2009-15.  

https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/pr/ceo-security-company-pleads-guilty-international-boiler-room-fraud-scheme

US CRIMINAL JUSTICE DATA: HUMAN TRAFFICKING

On 10 August, the Congressional Research Service published a briefing paper saying that, while some estimates of the incidence of human trafficking exist, comprehensive data on human trafficking within the US are not available. 

https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R47211

US GUN CONTROL: STRAW PURCHASE AND GUN TRAFFICKING PROVISIONS

On 9 August, the Congressional Research Service published a briefing paper concerned with straw purchases, which are illegal firearms transactions in which a person serves as a middleman by posing as the transferee, but is actually acquiring the firearm for another person.  It says that straw purchases are unlawful under 2 existing laws.  However, prosecutions under those provisions have sometimes been characterised as mere paperwork violations and, hence, inadequate in terms of deterring unlawful gun trafficking.  It explains that gun trafficking entails the movement or diversion of firearms from legal to illegal channels of commerce in violation of the Gun Control Act 1968 (GCA).

https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF12190

UK: NOTICE TO IMPORTERS 2952: BELARUS IMPORT SANCTIONS

On 9 August, the Department for International Trade issued an updated Notice about import prohibitions in force on certain goods originating or consigned from Belarus imported into the UK, including Northern Ireland.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/notice-to-importers-2952-belarus-import-sanctions#full-publication-update-history

OMAN: 14,000 BAGS OF CHEWING TOBACCO SEIZED

On 8 August, TJI reported that the Consumer Protection Authority (CPA) has taken legal action against an expatriate found to be in possession of over 14,000 bags of chewing tobacco.  The circulation of chewing tobacco is banned in Oman.

https://www.tobaccojournal.com/news/14000-bags-of-chewing-tobacco-seized/

NORTH KOREA’S INCREASING USE OF CRYPTO HEISTS TO FUND NUKES WORRIES THE US

On 9 August, an article in The Hill said that the Biden administration’s deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology said this recently during an event hosted by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).  She referred to taking multiple steps to counter Pyongyang’s cyber threats, including imposing sanctions against criminal groups and seizing stolen digital assets.  A UN report this year found that between 2020 and 2021, North Korean-backed hackers stole more than $50 million in digital assets to fund the country’s missile programme.  Although North Korea has shifted most of its cyberattack focus to the financial industry to generate income, it still uses hacks to target government institutions, especially ones in South Korea.

https://thehill.com/policy/technology/3590126-north-koreas-increasing-use-of-crypto-heists-to-fund-nukes-worries-us/

RUSSIA NEEDS MORE COMMERCIAL DRONE PILOTS FOR ITS WAR IN UKRAINE

An article in Vice on 10 August referred to an event which aims to bring together drone operators from across the country and formalize a combat training system for commercial drone pilots to help Russia’s war in Ukraine.  Commercial drones have become an important part of modern war.  IS pioneered bombing with commercial drones, and both Russia and Ukraine have been using quad-copters and other small-scale drones to spy on enemy lines and drop small munitions.  But Russia has had a hard time of late finding commercial drones to use in its war effort.  The other problem is a lack of pilots and enthusiasts. Russia’s drone laws are complicated and cities like Moscow have closed airspaces that require a special permit to fly.

https://www.vice.com/en/article/epzv4w/russia-commercial-drone-pilots-ukraine-war

SAUDI ARABIA: EXPATRIATE CONVICTED OF MONEY LAUNDERING FOR ATTEMPTING TO SMUGGLE $297,000 OUT OF COUNTRY 

On 13 August, Riyadh Daily reported that an expatriate of African nationality attempted to remove the funds via the ing Abdulaziz International Airport.  A court ordered confiscation of the seized amounts, imprisonment for 2 years, and his deportation from the country after serving his sentence.  The Public Prosecution Office submitted an objection to appeal the verdict, calling for a stiffer penalty for the offender.

http://alriyadhdaily.com/article/3eae9493e6374fb2bf2a0fdebe6cc2ed

BANGLADESH BANK SAYS BFIU REPEATEDLY SOUGHT INFO ON MONEY LAUNDERERS FROM SWISS BANKS

On 13 August, the Daily Star reported that BFIU had repeatedly sought information from different countries on various issues, including illegal money transactions from Bangladesh.  All kinds of initiatives were taken to collect information about money laundering from the country, a spokesman of the Bank said, adding that BFIU, the country’s financial intelligence agency, has also sent several letters to Swiss banks.

https://www.thedailystar.net/business/economy/news/bangladesh-bank-says-bfiu-repeatedly-sought-info-money-launderers-swiss-banks-3094216

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MYANMAR: THE TOXIC RARE EARTH MINING INDUSTRY AT THE HEART OF THE GLOBAL GREEN ENERGY TRANSITION

On 9 August, a report from Global Witness says that the processes used to extract heavy rare earths are wreaking an environmental toll to meet Chinese and global demand.  A 6-month investigation followed the outsourcing of the toxic industry across the Chinese border into Myanmar.  It says that a mountainous area, the Kachin Special Region 1, has become the main source, despite the mining being illegal.  Among the claims is that entities are registered as domestic businesses, but act as fronts for illegal Chinese investment and take a cut of the profits.

https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/natural-resource-governance/myanmars-poisoned-mountains/

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DETECTING AND REPORTING THE ILLICIT FINANCIAL FLOWS TIED TO ORGANIZED THEFT GROUPS (OTG) AND ORGANIZED RETAIL CRIME (ORC)

This White Paper from ACAMS in May says that high-profile “smash-n-grab” robberies, and nationwide cases involving major retailers in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have made headlines; and recent hearings by the US Congress, that discuss and debate proposed legislation, target the ability of criminal organisations to resell the stolen goods online with relative anonymity.  ORC is a low-risk, high-reward business line for transnational criminal organisations’ portfolios that presents a significant financial and public safety risk.  However, criminal organisations need to launder the nearly $70 billion of illicit proceeds gained from ORC activities annually, and financial institutions should ensure proper controls are in place to detect and report illicit activities tied to or involving ORC.

https://www.acams.org/en/media/document/29436

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PARAGUAY: VICE-PRESIDENT VELAZQUEZ RESIGNS AFTER US SANCTIONS

On 12 August, Deutsche Welle reported that Paraguay’s Vice-President, Hugo Velazquez said he would offer his resignation to his party and retire from the presidential race, following the US decision to blacklist him from entry over “significant” acts of corruption.   The US alleges Velazquez’s close associate Juan Carlos Duarte offered a bribe to a public official in Paraguay with the intent to “obstruct an investigation that threatened the Vice President and his financial interests”; and Duarte is also accused of breach of trust in his capacity as a legal advisor to the Yacyreta Bi-National Entity hydroelectric plant, a joint venture between Paraguay and Argentina.  The US also blacklisted the immediate family members of both men.  Duarte also said he would resign and added that he planned to cooperate in the investigation.

https://www.dw.com/en/paraguay-vice-president-velazquez-resigns-after-us-sanctions/a-62794445

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EU RUSSIA SANCTIONS – CLARIFICATION ON THE CARRIAGE OF CERTAIN CARGOES INCLUDING COAL AND FERTILISERS

On 12 August, the UK P+I Club issued a Circular advising that, on 10 August, the EU had published updated FAQ clarifying the application of provisions relating to the carriage of certain cargoes from Russia, including coal and other solid fossil fuels as well as certain types of fertiliser.  These clarifications are said to have a significant impact on the carriage of these commodities by EU entities and the provision of insurance for carriage to any entity regardless of their domicile.  It notes that the sanctions provisions were subject to a wind-down period in any event until 10 July and 10 August for sale contracts concluded before 9 April.  It says that the involvement of an EU entity in the carriage of Russian fertilisers and coal or other solid fossil fuels to any destination whatsoever and whether inside or outside the EU would be in breach of EU sanctions; and that the sanctions prohibitions include insurance and reinsurance services and prevent any entity subject to the jurisdiction of the EU from providing insurance and reinsurance for the carriage of Russian fertilisers and coal and other solid fossil fuel cargoes regardless of destination. 

https://www.ukpandi.com/news-and-resources/circulars/2022/circular-09-22-eu-sanctions-clarification-published-on-the-carriage-of-certain-russian-cargoes-including-coal-and-fertilisers/

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